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13 September 2007

The strange higher order effects of post Soviet organized crime

We have recently had occasion to note the increasingly strange ripples throughout areas of interest to the intelligence community, particularly those interests in the transnational issues space, created by developments in post Soviet organized crime. Whether one believes in the model of the Kombinat, or merely in the inevitable cycles of anarchical decay and authoritarian response that may be giving rise to, in the words of the Economist, a “neo-KGB” state - it is clear that the problem set is far from a dead issue, no matter how long ignored in many circles more focused on the immediately pressing problems of the Long War.

One of the largest growth businesses in Russian organized crime occurs in the Parallel World – or whatever cyberspace is becoming in its evolving ubiquity. Cyber attack against financial institutions and consumers is fast creating entirely new classes of network warfare tools and TTP, and forcing defenders to rapidly develop the sophistication of their own responses. The driving energies of these defensive efforts are not merely privatized, but almost entirely the result of the efforts of critical infrastructure owners who have been essentially abandoned by governments which lack the priority focus, the resources and the key people to even begin to discuss the problem set, let alone begin to address action. The developments in this space thus tend to occur along entirely unique and frequently unanticipated lines, with innovation flourishing from far stranger soil than the results of the typical government RFP.

Thus we note with interest a new European toolset designed to expedite analysis of compromised machines for forensic examination. The tool itself seems more an evolutionary advance on previous packages, but it is good to see movement in the space. The recent Estonian flap has definitely driven new interest within Europe on many previously poorly understood aspects of what are in that context intensely regional problems, and it is good to see our allies begin to move towards unique contributions to the shared defense in areas where they might be able to bring new competencies (vice legacy systems and logistics demands). We also immediately would note the potential utility of the item for DOMEX efforts, long languishing in need of further attention (as frequently discussed at Haft of the Spear.)

We hope to see further developments of this nature in the unanticipated higher order effects of otherwise nearly intractable problem sets. The potential benefits to the IC from finding, and exploiting, these reservoirs of expertise and pathways of alternative development could be quite incalculable.

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